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Thread: A New Look and Direction for MB411

  1. #1
    Gus
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    Default A New Look and Direction for MB411

    Dear Members,

    Just wanted to give you a heads up, this weekend, we’re changing the website layout. We're very excited about the new look and we hope you like the changes.

    In a nutshell, we’re trying to make Miami Beach 411 easier for you to use. Some of you have said, the website is feeling too cluttered, and that it's getting difficult to find all the best stories. So we are re-organizing the structure, along with how the information is displayed, giving you the right options at the right time, with less scrolling, and more pictures and videos about the area!

    The biggest change you may notice is that we removed the “Forum” link from the main navigation. Why? The forums have gotten too popular and have actually overshadowed the main website, confusing the search engines. What? Yes, it’s true. When you search our company name [Miami Beach 411], Google lists the discussion forum as the first result, which is a mistake. One way to start to fix it is by making it easier to find all the other great stories, videos, events, and sections, which there are many.

    The Forum is not going away, and it will still be easy to find. How? We are renaming it the “Travelers’ Helpline” and places prominent links on all the main pages. Here is a screenshot so you can see what I mean.

    Name:  miamibeach411-new-layout-v8.jpg
Views: 709
Size:  178.4 KB

    Sorry the links are so small. There is a "Travelers’ Helpline” link in the sub menu and at the top of the center column?.. Those are the links the forum. You'll see similar links in similar places, as you browse around the site.

    In addition, we added some requested features, like better weather information, along with travel guidebooks, DVDs and fun accessories for sale.

    Jess, Doug, Christy, Matt, and myself have also written a bunch of helpful travel tips that we hope visitors will enjoy.

    We hope you like the new look and the direction we're going!

    I’ll update this post when the new layout is up.
    Michelle, Doug, Mario and 3 others like this.

  2. #2
    Moderator Jess's Avatar
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction

    Gus it looks great. I can't wait for the new site to go live. This is the right direction for MiamiBeach411.com

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    Member dylan's Avatar
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction

    I think this is a great new look. I am sure we will be able to reach out and help more people with the new direction as well.

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    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction

    I like the idea of calling the forum the traveler's helpline. It's funny, whereas back in the '90s it was very common to use the term "411" for information, nowadays when I say it to younger people, they don't know what 411 means! Now that we have the internet, people don't really need to dial 411 anymore! I guess 411 will go the way of Polaroid cameras and video rental stores.

  5. #5
    Gus
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    I'm going to move this thread into General Discussion, so more people can see what's up.

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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    Loving the New Look - clean and clear!

    Especially the new color code is so pleasant to the eye: Uplifting & refreshing, this light background blue is reminiscent of Miami's ever-blue sky. (Don't you just love Miami?) The top column's saturated blue brings focus to the site, with sub-menus that thrill my organization-loving brain. So glad I just recently joined the forum - what a treat!

    One more impression: Modern-looking. Me gusta.
    Mario, Christy and dylan like this.

  7. #7
    rk
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    Gus, congratulations on the new look web pages. I will look forward to trying them out. Any new design will lead to some adjustment period, so I will reserve comments for the most part until after trying for a few days.

    I do have some early comments based on what you posted above:

    I think redesigning the front page is a great idea and long overdue. The old front page was way too complicated, and I like the fact that the new front page seems to fit on the screen without scrolling. In my view even the new front page is a bit too complicated but let's wait and see, sometimes too hard to judge from a screen capture. The items in the left column are easy to follow, i.e. easy to tell the difference between Miami, Key West, Orlando etc. The entries in the middle column seem confusing and repetitious. Helpline, Travel Tips, Guidebooks, Need Help and Helpful websites all sound the same without conveying any useful information. They could be merged into one or two entries very easily.

    I am very surprised to read your comment that the forum is too popular in search engines so you are trying to relegate it to a sub-menu. This seems both counter-productive and ineffective at the same time. Ineffective, because (I assume) people who visit the forum rarely do so by following links from the front page, rather they get to the forum by following links from a search engine like Google or Bing. This will not change no matter how you re-arrange links. Counter-productive, because it seems you are trying to hide the most useful part of your website. The reason Google is the most popular search engine is that they don't clutter their front page with things that make it harder to do a search. This is a mistake that Netscape and later Yahoo never quite recovered from. Interactive websites where users provide the content (and are in control) are the future. Static sites where information flows one way are like TV stations of old. The most valuable asset of this website is the people who write in with questions. You want to do everything possible to encourage that.

    Anyway, maybe I am reading too much into that one comment. Will look forward to trying it this weekend. Best wishes for success.
    Gus and Christy like this.

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    Senior Member Blackford Oakes's Avatar
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    Last time this site went through renovations, I DM'd the Owl and shared my thoughts that the site was too top heavy leaning towards the forums. No doubt, we are all grateful for the forums, but it's main draw apprearance might have drawn away from the bottom line.

    RK is far more knowledgeable than me in regards to search-engines and such, but I just think this is a better option for the first timer to the site, and easier to seriously consider purchase of an a-la-carte tour item. No doubt, the tours will be well described with a rare occasion for a follow-up question on the forum.

    The forum is a valuable tools and quite rare in similar business models. In terms of running a business, the change is a step in the right direction.

    Best of Luck !
    Last edited by Blackford Oakes; 03-24-2012 at 11:53 AM.
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    Editor Christy's Avatar
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    I really like all the photos on the new website and the color! I think I remember seeing the actual temp of Miami on there which I really liked. If you think about it the weather is why most people plan a visit to Miami. I agree with rk about the middle column of choices, it might be too confusing for new users.

    Is there a general rule for websites of how many links you should have on the home page? Maybe to make it more user friendly in line with rk's points we should move the google search bar under the photo?
    GandJ likes this.

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    Editor Christy's Avatar
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    rk, I think what Gus means about the forums being too prominent is that people looking to take a tour in Miami might come to the website and instead of booking a tour, get caught up reading an article on strip clubs or ramblings about bike lanes...and then maybe they think they landed on the wrong page?
    GandJ likes this.

  11. #11
    Gus
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    Post Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    Christy, thanks for chiming in.

    Search engine folks say, the general rule of thumb is no more than 7 main navigation links.

    Regarding the content on the website, I like having a few strip club articles for those who are interested, and there's nothing wrong with a bike lane article, or two. Heck, there's even room to discuss things like South by South West and Occupy Miami at Miami Beach 411.

    But you're right when you say that too many choices can be a distraction.

    I've heard people say, it should take someone 3 seconds to figure out what your website does, after they first visit.

    We've been sending a confusing message, acting like we're some kind of local newspaper that generates revenue from ad sales, which we are not.

    Miami Beach 411 is a Miami travel website that should be focused on helping people save time and money, and planning an awesome vacation. The Tour Company is one service we provide. And so are forums. But the forums should be used as a tool to connect with others and get answers to Miami-related questions.

    We're not changing any rules, or toning down our goal to deliver awesome stories.

    Miami Beach 411 and the Traveler's Helpline (forum) will still be a place where people have fun, act a little wild, and be creative.

    Our aim with the new layout is to make it easier for you to find what you're looking for.

    If the weather stays calm, the new site is scheduled to launch tomorrow at 5pm.
    Michelle, GandJ and Christy like this.

  12. #12
    Gus
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    rk, as usual, you bring up some good considerations. Let me wait to reply until after the launch.

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    Travel Advisor fredgarvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    Quote Originally Posted by Gus View Post
    Christy, thanks for chiming in.

    Search engine folks say, the general rule of thumb is no more than 7 main navigation links.

    Regarding the content on the website, I like having a few strip club articles for those who are interested, and there's nothing wrong with a bike lane article, or two. Heck, there's even room to discuss things like South by South West and Occupy Miami at Miami Beach 411.

    But you're right when you say that too many choices can be a distraction.

    I've heard people say, it should take someone 3 seconds to figure out what your website does, after they first visit.

    We've been sending a confusing message, acting like we're some kind of local newspaper that generates revenue from ad sales, which we are not.

    Miami Beach 411 is a Miami travel website that should be focused on helping people save time and money, and planning an awesome vacation. The Tour Company is one service we provide. And so are forums. But the forums should be used as a tool to connect with others and get answers to Miami-related questions.

    We're not changing any rules, or toning down our goal to deliver awesome stories.

    Miami Beach 411 and the Traveler's Helpline (forum) will still be a place where people have fun, act a little wild, and be creative.

    Our aim with the new layout is to make it easier for you to find what you're looking for.

    If the weather stays calm, the new site is scheduled launch is set for tomorrow at 5pm.
    Well said Gus!

    Good luck and godspeed!

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    Editor Christy's Avatar
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    Gus, I think thins site looks pretty cool. It's similar to ours because it offers NYC travel advice (not sure if they have a forum or not) but it also sells all the tours of one company.

    http://www.nycgo.com/

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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    I discovered miamibeach411 through a YouTube video posted by someone who booked a tour ... When watching the video the person mentioned the site ,and well I joined... What I love about the site is that there are people who are members and not actual employes of miamibeach411 and they tell their experiences with the tour and also give many other suggestions to many other hot spots when visiting.. Anyways,love the site ,best wishes..
    Mario likes this.

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    rk
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    Quote Originally Posted by Gus View Post
    rk, as usual, you bring up some good considerations. Let me wait to reply until after the launch.
    OK, thanks. You may want to edit that line about Miami being the world's largest cruise port. That distinction already belongs to Port Everglades I believe, and certainly without doubt by the end of 2012.
    Matt Meltzer likes this.

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    rk
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    Quote Originally Posted by Christy View Post
    rk, I think what Gus means about the forums being too prominent is that people looking to take a tour in Miami might come to the website and instead of booking a tour, get caught up reading an article on strip clubs or ramblings about bike lanes...and then maybe they think they landed on the wrong page?
    Yes, sort of. People very rarely browse websites in hierarchical fashion these days. Instead, they come in by the back door, the side door, and really as many doors as there are web pages in a website. This die was cast when altavista.digital.com debuted in 1995. So what you want to do is (a) make your site easy to navigate from every page and (b) have content on your site that people care about (i.e. what they are searching for when they visit a search engine). I assume (a) is what Gus is aiming for with the redesign. But (b) is a lot more important. The best way to know what people care about is to let them tell you, via the questions they post on the forum (and the answers and discussion that follow). So the most important section of this and any similar site that aims to provide information is a forum that is lively and popular, and the next most important is to provide convenient navigation from all forum pages to things you are selling, i.e. the tours, and the rest is relatively less important, though of course a professional looking web page is a very good idea. It's just that most people will never start by going to the front page no matter what's on it. You and I and Gus might, but not 99% of the visitors. Navigation must be easy and sideways, not top-down and cluttered. Search engine rank (which really means content that people care about) is king.
    Last edited by rk; 03-25-2012 at 02:59 AM.
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    I am excited to see the response from everyone once we start using the site on a daily basis.

    Thank you everyone for all your comments & feedback so far!! Gus and Atiosis, as well as Jess and Doug, have been working tirelessly to get everything ready.

    I'll keep my fingers crossed for today...I want my husband back

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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    I can wait to see the new layout. I'm sure it will bring some exciting changes

  20. #20
    Michael Miller
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    Default Re: A New Look and Direction for MB411

    The one thing I forgot to mention to Gus earlier in the week was the forum icons, for now until Atiosis has time to whip up some new ones you'll still see them with the old darker gradient blues from the old style. I take the blame for that due to fabricating the new style on my localhost (my computer) and it just slipped my mind honestly!

    I hope everyone enjoys!

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